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Unidentified Pende artist. Gitenga Mask. Pende region, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mid-20th century. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchased as the gift of Amy Gould and Matthew Polk, Gibson Island, Maryland, BMA 2015.148
Unidentified Pende artist. Gitenga Mask. Pende region, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mid-20th century. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchased as the gift of Amy Gould and Matthew Polk, Gibson Island, Maryland, BMA 2015.148

The exhibition illustrates the honored place birds hold within numerous African cultures

BALTIMORE, MD (December 6, 2017) — The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) presents approximately 20 works from sub-Saharan artists who drew inspiration from the birds that occupied their world in Beyond Flight: Birds in African Art. On view December 20, 2017 through June 17, 2018, this exhibition explores the varied roles of birds across 19th – and 20th -century African states, societies, and cultures. From the largest ostrich to the smallest warbler, the works on view highlight the symbolic meaning and aesthetic appreciation of birds in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, and Uganda.

“Birds make up less than one percent of all living things. Yet, they play a role in numerous artistic works, both in and out of Africa,” said Kevin Tervala, Associate Curator of African Art. “There is something about birds that speak to who we are as humans. By representing birds, we are somehow able to represent ourselves.”

Some of the birds in the exhibition played a role in the spiritual life of their creators, while others were simply made to be beautiful. Each section of the exhibition begins with a story that explains how an artist, individual, or society used art to relate to the avian world. While the work is rooted in everyday African life in the 19th and 20th centuries, Beyond Flight presents a universal narrative that encourages visitors to think about how birds—both real and represented—play a role in their own day-to-day lives.

Beyond Flight documents the beauty of birds in African art, but also helps narrate the story of how the presence and influence of birds has remained a long-standing tradition,” said Christopher Bedford, BMA Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director. “This is an opportunity for us to share some of the diverse and fascinating works in the BMA’s collection of African art.”

Beyond Flight is co-curated by former Associate Curator of African Art Shannen Hill and Associate Curator of African Art Kevin Tervala.

About the Baltimore Museum of Art

Founded in 1914, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) inspires people of all ages and backgrounds through exhibitions, programs, and collections that tell an expansive story of art—challenging long-held narratives and embracing new voices. Our outstanding collection of more than 95,000 objects spans many eras and cultures and includes the world’s largest public holding of works by Henri Matisse; one of the nation’s finest collections of prints, drawings, and photographs; and a rapidly growing number of works by contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds. The museum is also distinguished by a neoclassical building designed by American architect John Russell Pope and two beautifully landscaped gardens featuring an array of modern and contemporary sculpture. The BMA is located three miles north of the Inner Harbor, adjacent to the main campus of Johns Hopkins University, and has a community branch at Lexington Market. General admission is free so that everyone can enjoy the power of art.

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Press Contacts

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Anne Brown
Baltimore Museum of Art
Senior Director of Communications
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410-274-9907

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Baltimore Museum of Art
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410-428-4668

For media outside Baltimore:

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